The Macintosh Picasso Dealer Sign

Mac Picasso Dealer SignDuring rollout of the Macintosh back in 1984, Apple produced a limited edition promotional sign for the original Mac dealers. The sign has the now-famous Picasso line art along with the name Macintosh etched into a 10″ x 10″ piece of glass, manually beveled and painted. The glass was mounted on a beige plastic base containing an internal flourescent light, illuminating the glass from below. When switched on the sign sparkles like crystal and clearly announces that something new has arrived.

It’s difficult to find out much information about these signs, other than that they were produced for the original Mac dealers. There’s no record about who built the signs or how many were produced. Apparently each dealer was alloted only one sign. eBay auction listings have speculated between 25 and 1000 units produced, but the only solid info I found was part of Stanford’s Making the Mac archive.

The Macintosh Product Introduction Plan noted that there were 1500 Apple dealers total at the time of the Mac’s launch:

5.C Retail Introduction Plan

(b) reinforcing our commitment to our existing dealer base by offering to all 1500 current Apple dealers the opportunity to carry Macintosh. To become an authorized Macintosh dealer one must simply be a current dealer in good standing (exceptions will be determined by Sales & Sales Operations) and send a key Retail Sales Person (RSP) to be trained on Macintosh prior to public introduction.

Not all of those dealers carried the Mac, but at least half were apparently scheduled to receive a videodisc-based kiosk to help demo the product:

This demo-station will eventually be made available to all 1500 Apple dealers. Upon Macintosh introduction, at least 750 dealers will be stocked, additional dealers stocked subject to availability of videodisk players.

So an educated guess is somewhere around 750-1000 signs were made, with no more than 1500 tops. **
I wonder if those kiosks were actually produced?

The sign I have in the Vintage Mac Museum is working and in good condition. The paint has faded a bit after nearly thirty years in the field, but nevertheless the effect when lit is literally breathtaking. A gorgeous piece promotional media turned folk art, and something I’m proud to have in my collection!

picasso+sign+light

** Update Dec 2016: since initially writing this post (in 2012) I’ve seen quite a few of these signs for sale on eBay, leading me to suspect that the 1500 estimate is probably too low. Recently developer Don Burtis included the following notes on eBay about how he obtained his, which supports this contention:

I received this sign as a token of Apple’s appreciation for the hardware and software design my company did that benefited the Macintosh computer… I have no firm data how many signs might have been produced, but I’d guess it to be closer to 2500 rather than 1500. More signs must have been produced since Apple expected the dealer base to grow, replacements for broken signs must have been planned, some signs were used internally at Apple, and signs were given to some developers (such as me).

Burtis also noted that the signs were produced by Moonglow, Inc. of Fountain Valley, CA based on stickers on the bottom, but the company cannot be found today under that name. Too bad, it would definitely be nice to have more information about this iconic Apple item.


13 responses to “The Macintosh Picasso Dealer Sign”

  1. Adam Rosen says:

    ORIGINAL BLOGSPOT COMMENTS:

    HBlaine said…
    An absolutely beautiful piece! Congratulations on the find!
    December 27, 2012 at 12:05 PM

    Damien Girard said…
    I have one of these, but just the glass piece and not the base. It is a bit scratched (it was that way when I got it.) About 12 years ago, a friend of mine had it laying around & he knew I was a big Apple fan, so he gave it to me – where he got it, I have no idea since he is not a tech / computer person at all. If only I had the base for it…
    January 15, 2013 at 8:35 AM

    David Keehner said…
    I have one of these in great condition. No scratches or chips. Original flourescent tube that still works after 30 years! Althought mine is slightly different from all the ones I have seen pictured on the internet as in that the keyboard on mine is painted in red. All the others I have seen the key board is in blue. I got it from my sister who worked at a Mac dealer in Canada in 1984 and she was going to throw it out after she got it but I asked her to give it to me. Will she ever be annoyed when she finds out what they are worth now. I would consider selling it if the price is right.
    March 14, 2013 at 1:55 PM

  2. Guy Osa says:

    I also have a MacPicasso Sign in a box for 20 years. I was the key Retail Sales Person (RSP)for my store. I also have a working 128 Test-Drive-a-Mac still in the Bag, a 512 Mac with a HyperDrive and Imagewriter, plus a Mac PowerBook and Newtown. My LISA Blew-up so I had to thrash it.

  3. Ellen Ash says:

    Mr. Rosen:

    I have one of these. It was sent to the Apple Store in Gainesville, FL when Apple first rolled out the Mac. Do you mind telling me how much you paid for yours. I had previously checked around to see how much they were going for, and one of the individuals I e-mailed with let me know recently he was interested in purchasing mine. I’d just like to know what would be a reasonable price to ask.

    Thanks Ellen Ash

  4. Chesa Keane says:

    I actually have two of these. I was managing a computer store that closed in Carson City, NV and ended up with two. I love them. At one time http://www.redlightrunner.com was selling these for about $1,200. The price has not dropped to around $500, but I was interested to hear that there may only be about 1,000 – 1,500 around.

    I love mine and was interested in selling at one time, but I just hate to let them go. I’ll hang on to them.

  5. Don T. says:

    I also have one and I’m wondering if it’s really worth selling. I was the first bench tech at the 20th Businessland store to open when we received this sign. It was on display for a year and I was given the sign when I left in 1985. It’s been in a box for the last 15 years and every time I bring out I wonder if I should sell it. I replaced the florescent tube once, but that’s been about it. Does the provenance help the price any?

    • Adam Rosen says:

      I think condition is the biggest factor in the price – is the paint still vibrant, is the glass undamaged, etc.. All these signs originally came from those early Apple dealers.

  6. Max says:

    I am looking to buy one of these signs….
    gmaxim@gmail.com
    Thanks!

  7. Jon Wheat says:

    I have one of these as well. My father owned a series of Apple dealerships in northern Ontario (Canada).

    It is one of the few items I have from him and it reminds me of those very tough but exciting Mac days.

  8. Stuart Gitlow says:

    Several hundred of these were sold off at the Apple Company Store, which was open to anyone, in 1987. They were sold for $10 apiece. I bought several and gave all but one away as gifts to Mac loving friends.

    • Adam Rosen says:

      Stuart – nobody has ever mentioned this before. Are you sure those $10 signs were the same as the original dealer models? I find it hard to believe Apple would directly sell off any original marketing items, and for so much less than they were even worth at cost. Do you have any proof of those sales, such as a receipt?

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